Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mid-June - of cochins, crows, and chores

Latest addition - a tiny cochin

From FB:

The latest addition. Against my better judgement, I let the red and black Cochins (who share a nest box, never mind there are two empty ones) hatch a single egg (I gathered any extra eggs until they stopped laying... Then stopped checking and if course she laid three more while I wasn't watching. Current cooked status on those three eggs unknown).

Heard peeping yesterday morning and went to investigate. Two large hens squashed in the box... Single babby on the ground, thankfully not being attacked by the rest of the chooks - and thankfully a warm morning, so not chilled.

Put the babby back. Red hen pecked at it, so black hen was declared "mother" and accordingly moved to the chook crĂȘche.

Lookit's lil feathered feet!

* * * 


This morning while I was in the barn feeding, I could hear a crow outside in the tree. We don't get many crows around here, so I was curious what he was doing hanging around - was he eyeing Spike who was tied on his long string? (are crows that predatory?) Was it thinking that the banty chooklets might make a nice meal?

Then when I went to put the hay bags out, it flew overhead with something red and pulpy in it's mouth. Was it from a dead chicken that a raccoon had gotten and I didn't know about?

And then I realised it was plum pulp. Ah.

(The plum tree in orchard is full of ripening fruit).

Which brings me to Monday morning when I was picking out Fergus' foot ready for trimming and dug a big red pulpy mess out of his frog. For a moment I freaked, thinking "what form of disease is this that I didn't realise he had [that will now lame him for life]?".

And then I realised it was plum pulp (the pit gave it away). Fergus and Roo spent a happy hour in the orchard on Sunday "grazing down the weeds" (= ignoring the weeds and eating ripening fruit off the trees instead).

* * *

Activities for this week:
(predictably, none of which were "riding my pony")

Monday morning: Trimmed Fergus. Hooves of rock, muscles straining to try and nip that stuff. Lots of dripping but got it done. It'll soon be time to ride again, but I may give him that extra time off and wait until we're back from our trip.

Tuesday morning: 
Trimmed Small Thing - mostly to get his back toes less pointy, so the boots would fit better, but when I started looking at his front feet, I realised they were totally out of balance, so needed work too. I think because he's so narrow in front, the lateral edges of his front feet tend to lengthen, while the medial ones stay short - the result is feet that don't end on a flat platform and he must have to stand knock-kneed. This is one of those things that I wish I'd keep on top of better. I've no idea if balancing the feet (artificially shortening one side) will ever correct the problem, but at least it should give his legs some relief from the torquing this must cause.

Small Thing's Wonky Feet

Wednesday Evening:
Didn't manage to get anything done in the morning due to needing to be at work, so instead did my "activity of the day" in the evening when I got home... which meant I didn't eat supper until 11:45 pm. I claim low blood sugar:

Delicious Viper Green - Small Things new back feet togs

The activity involved adjusting the wires on ST's new boots for the perfect fit (to take up the slack in the cables that attach the "captivators")(the black part which cups his heel bulbs). To do this:

  • first prise out the "button" on the toe of the boot [check]
  • remove the two tiny screws from said button without dropping or losing them [check]
    (well, ish... I dropped one, but thankfully saw where it fell) 
  • push the button back in [check]
  • adjust the wires to the desired length [check]
  • put the boot on the pony foot and admire your work....

...except you do actually need to reinsert the tiny screws to make the cables stay where you put them - otherwise the cables just unravel out again as soon as you tighten the toe strap.

Apparently adjusting boots late at night isn't a great idea. At least I only messed up the one boot. And it's not even Thursday yet, which is my usual "stupid-mode" day.

Small Thing is apparently tired of my ministrations on feet, as he sidled off when I went to catch him for this latest foot work. He, no doubt, would be more enthusiastic if I did something more exciting, like ride him.

I agree.

Small Thing showing off his blubber that needs to be worked off.
His back currently resembles a table top.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Small Things in Disgrace

The intention was to ride this morning - as it is many mornings, but almost never happens. But this time I was motivated - Ash sent me a care package of various boots and captivators to try out on Small Thing and I was gung ho to get out there.

That is, until pft let me know late yesterday afternoon that Spike had gotten into a drawstring bag left over from our camping trip* last weekend that contained my knitting (not one, but three 450 yrds balls of fine, expensive yarn) despite the bag being drawn tightly closed.

(* write up to follow)

Thus ensued a stressful evening, running late into the night, detangling yarn. This is about the sixth time this has happened and we are well into double digits of hours spent at this task. Managed to get the worst of the three balls untangled and put the other two "piles" into a zipped bag he can't get into.

And so that I couldn't see them.

At least for a few hours.

I'm not sure what the appeal is, but Spike worked quite hard to get this last batch of yarn out. I used to think it was the ziploc bags the yarn lived in that was the appeal but these weren't in a ziploc. Wondering if it it's the smell...?

So because of the late night and general crunchiness, instead of riding this morning, I spent an hour or so putting boots on and taking them off. On the front, Small Thing has strange wide, round feet that are very upright with not terribly well-defined heel bulbs, while on the back his feet are heart-shaped - wide in the back, pointy in the front, so it was a judgement call as to what would fit best.

First fitting: Toe wire needs loosening so the toe strap isn't pulled so short,
and the small captivator around his heel is either just going to work,
or just not going to work. Time will tell.

I was fiddling with the last foot – the right rear – and trying to maneuver him so his foot was in the shade to take a photo when he kicked out at me.

Now I assume he was irritated, trying to eat his breakfast and I kept messing with him. And if he'd intended to connect, then he would have. Still, it was a very active kick in my direction and immediately resulted in me screaming like a banshee at him and firmly enforcing the "Three Second Rule" (although in this case, it was more like a "Nanosecond Rule").

I am still hoarse.

Small Thing shot out of the shelter into the paddock at high speed, dislodging that RR boot as he went and then proceeded to run around anxiously avoiding me (advancing on him in a threatening manner). The lost RR boot was still fastened around his ankle and it flapped enthusiastically the entire time without him having a the slightest interest in it. So at least that's good.

Finally got him back in the shelter and got the boot off. A good test of what isn't going to work - think I needed to snug up the pastern strap slightly, but more importantly, need to whack off some of that pointy toe to get the foot to seat better in the boot. No surprises there.

(Renegades are more forgiving of trim length than Gloves... but still not that forgiving.)

So both my favorite small things are in disgrace, and unfortunately, the thing that draws me to them is precisely the thing that causes most trouble - independent and active personalities.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fergus Visits the Vet, Following His Lameness Pull

Fergus' Lameness

To recap, back in February at 20 Mule Team 100 – after letting Fergus go a little too fast on the first section – the vet spotted "something" at the first vet check. After that, we rode a much saner pace, and nothing more was noticed for the rest of the 100 miles.

Then at the beginning of April we did NV Derby 50 and I let him move out - and again, at the finish, the vet saw "something" on the left front.

So why would May be any different? Sure enough, 60 miles into NASTR 75, we were pulled for left front lameness. Slap that girl.

By Tuesday following the ride we were in Auburn being looked at by Dr Larry Goss DVM of Auburn Animal Medical Center. Larry's been vetting for over 35 years, is a regular Tevis vet, and was the vet who did Roo's initial check in at Tevis in 2009. That year he watched Roo trot out and said "I see something in the back end". Not what you want to hear, but we chatted about it for a bit and concluded it might be Roo moving funny because we'd only glued his boots on 30 minutes prior.

65 miles later, Roo got pulled for rear-end lameness at Chicken Hawk.

In short, I trust Larry to spot what's going on.

And spot it he did. He barely had us trot (not that Fergus had much intention of trotting anyway), felt his digital pulses (which were pulsing away)(and gave me a quick education on digital pulses and what they should and shouldn't be doing), and got out his hoof testers.

Fergus was reactive on both feet - slightly more on the left (not really surprising, since that's my preferred side for posting and I need to be a lot more diligent about switching diagonals) in the areas shown in red on the diagram. <sad face>

(Because of my disbelief that Fergus' lameness could be caused by something so mundane, Larry also checked his tendons, his two pronounced splints, and his joint motion. None of which caused any suspicion whatsoever).

We discussed various ideas at length and Larry's take on it was that the sikaflex padding in the bottom of the glue-ons (that which I always felt helped him, since he moved out so well at Tevis when glued-up) was probably creating too much pressure.

The more I think on this, the less I'm convinced, since the areas he was most reactive on had the least amount of glue under them. Not to mention that, at my direction, pft put a lot more sikaflex in the second boot we glued - the RIGHT front - than the left.

My personal thought is more that he's a heavy, BIG-moving horse and the EZ Boot Gloves/Glue-ons just aren't giving him enough support; enough protection again pokies; or enough protection against concussion when I let him move out BIG. And we certainly moved BIG at NASTR 75 - a ride known for its rocks and crappy footing.

(And frankly, I'm surprised he got through Tevis last summer, given that – yup – we moved BIG then too. Maybe that trail is just more forgiving on the way he moves? )

Overachieving during vet-in at Robie Park, pre-Tevis 2014
(photo: Ashley Wingert)

Overachieving just outside Michigan Bluff when I finally let him go, Tevis 2014
(photo: Dominique Cognée)

Overachieving at NV Derby 50, April 2015
(photo: Rene Baylor)

Overachieving at NASTR 75, May 2015
(photo: Bill Gore)
Overachieving at NASTR 75, May 2015
(photo: Rene Baylor)

Either way, we need to do something more gooder for his feet, and we need to do it NOW.

So on Sunday, Aurora very kindly came over to my place and we spent a happy hour or two grubbing about in the dirt, fitting Fergus for a pair of Renegade boots. I'm hoping that the more rigid sole, and the thickness of the sole will offer the protection and anti-concussion features that Gloves aren't able to provide him on his overachievey front end.

I wasn't super familiar with Renegade's new Viper boots, other than being peripherally aware that it was a slightly different design to the original Renegade boot. The Vipers are a rounder boot - and as it turned out, not the best fit for Fergus' fronts. However the Viper captivator probably is. And you can mix and match. As Aurora and I concluded - the Viper captivator is shaped more like an underwired bra, while the Renegade captivator  is more like a sports bra. And being well-endowed, Fergus appears to fit a Viper captivator better (although hard to tell, since Aurora didn't have one big enough to accommodate his largeness, so awaiting further try-out on that). ;)

But we'll see. A care package of "things to try" should be with us in the next week or so, to figure out what shape/size boot and captivator is going to work best for him. At this point, he appears to be a 2WW in the original Renegade boot.

And he still gets to keep his back Gloves, which are a better option for our local terrain/footing anyway.

Future Plans:

Although I could probably cobble something together for him to get us through Big Horn 100 in a month, I opted to abandon the idea of driving 4000 miles with an iffy horse to go to the ride. Much bummedness abounds, but that's what I get for not paying proper attention to the signs my big horse has been giving me for so long. He deserves better.

And not fair to Fergus anyway - he needs time to heal up properly and be healthy. And I want to get his front feet dialled in properly, not rushed into a half-tried out option.

He's getting the rest of this month off while I fiddle with boot-fit, we'll putz-ride during July. Ashley will be here for Tevis in late July, so she can fiddle with any other fit-niggles he has, and towards the end of August we'll go and do Eastern High Sierra Classic in Bridgeport. It's long been time to go back to EHSC and the timing is perfect. I can make sure his boots are going to work, and then if all goes well, we can aim for Virginia City 100 four weeks later in September.

Most of all, I'm excited at trying something new for him - and I hope that it makes him feel good.

In Search of Squishiness - Feet

This post (started back in April and never finished until now) goes hand in hand with the next one on Fergus' lameness. This particular blob deals with attempts to pad boots back in late March/early April. Although it wasn't really in the forefront of my brain, apparently I wanted to get Fergus more comfortable on hard footing. 

Who knew then how important this issue was to become by the end of the May?

Artificial Squishy Feet

Fergus likes easy footing. Most of my horses are seemingly indifferent to what they're trotting on, but with Fergus you can really feel the difference when you let him go on softer terrain. Taking him out in the sand results in huge movement, and any soft duff makes him feel filled with energy.

As a result, whenever I've glued on boots for a big ride, he always feels way better than on a normal training ride.

For that reason, this spring I was investigating if I could install some kind of gel pad into his boots for everyday workouts. I talked a little to Larkin at the Adhere Booth at the AERC Convention in March and he recommended three possible "weights" of "Pak":

Coming up to NV Derby, both Roo and Fergus would be going and doing the 50s each day, so I figured it was a good time to do some experimenting. They were both due for new boots, so I duly purchased the fixings and the prior weekend pft and I put together a big box of boots from glue-on shells, add-on gaiters*, and, in Roo's case, yellow power straps.

(* buying a box of four glue-ons and adding gaiters yourself is by far the cheapest way to keep your horses in boots. Unfortunately, it requires some homework, a certain amount of dexterity and some muscle to get them all put together. Thanks, pft, for being my muscle). 

Box o' boots.
My spiffy new glue-gun. After years of wrestling with my old one that would jam at regular intervals, causing already stressful gluing to become even more stressful, I finally got a replacement at the Convention - and it's a lovely thing

Unfortunately my supplier (Riding Warehouse) were out of my first choice - the blue label standard Equipak, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try the Equipak Soft (pink label). We squirted out pads for Roo's front and back boots, and Fergus' front boots:

Roo front
Roo back (I think)
Fergus front


We poured in these pads on Sunday morning, but unfortunately I was due to ride Fergus that afternoon. The pads were still a little tacky, so I smeared in some vaseline. Unclear why, since I promptly wiped it all out again. Off we all went to Balderston Corrals for a quick 5-6 mile romp with dogs and pft-onna-mtn-bike in tow:

I think we managed to get almost a whole mile before we got to the first hill and Fergus promptly popped off his boot. I hopped off, went back down the hill to retrieve it, stuck it back on, and it came off again. On the return journey, after the boot came off for about the fourth time, I took both front boots off, fearing he was going to rip off a gaiter. 

Verdict: Fail. 

Left and right boots, later that afternoon

I'm unclear if it was because we needed to let the Equi-Pak set up for a lot longer, or if he's just too hard on the material, but it looks like he pretty much scooped out the toes almost immediately, then trashed the rest of the pad. 

My conclusion, for him, at least, was that Equipak Soft is way too soft for him. I may try this experiment with him again, using the blue-label Equipak - and let it set up for a week or so beforehand.


By Thursday, I knew I had to get Roo out to at least try his new squishy soles, to make sure it was going to work. My Facebook entry for that morning:

I'd like to say "Here we are, up early for a relaxed, before-work ride on my mild-mannered, adult horse in the morning sunshine".
But the caption actually reads: "WTF?!? was up with Roo this morning, acting like a stupid idiot half-wit horse with no brain!?".
Came the closest I have in a while to being dumped, while clinging on frantically like a limpet and tweaked my back trying to keep some semblance of control.
But he did give his squishy-soled boots a work out (twisting and turning - the soles stayed intact, so are a go for NV Derby); put me firmly in the "hell no" category for starting Roo on the first loop in his borrowed S-Hack; and concluded that - yes, he really has gone up yet another size in boots all the way around (now size 1 in front, 0.5 in back).

Much more satisfactory - Roo's front and back boots. The packing had deteriorated slightly, but was still doing its job. 

So Roo got to wear Equipak for NV Derby, but since he isn't terribly reactive to footing, I can't say with any conviction whether it made any difference or not. At the end of the 50 miles, the packing looked more ragged than shown above, but was still intact.

Either way, maybe OK for a one-off application, but certainly not going to stand up to regular everyday boot wear, which was the purpose of the exercise.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NASTR 75 - In which we run up front and I mess up

An experienced rider once told me that you don't actually have to go that much faster to be in front of the pack at a ride, you just have to get out there in front and then maintain forward movement.

On Saturday, I found out that she was right. Ish.

I've long wanted to "let Fergus out" - to have him move right along and see what he's capable of, instead of holding him back. My usual MO is to ride along, not making too much effort to produce any kind of speed, and eventually we get to the finish of the ride, usually somewhere close to the back of the pack. This works well when you're riding with your friends. It takes any pressure off, you can chat and generally have a good time. But right now I'm mostly riding on my own since Fergus doesn't pace well with other horses - he's usually in too big of a trot and if I slow him down it can beat both of us up - and riding on your own for hours and hours is lonely.

NV Derby was my first attempt to "let him out" and it was going quite well for the first 15 miles or so until the person I was riding with on the first loop got a rock in their horse's shoe that was hard to dislodge, so we lost a little bit of time there. Not much, but it put us behind the riders that I'd been trying so hard to pass and stay past. Then later I couldn't get out of vet checks on time because of juggling the needs of two horses and a girl. All stuff you have to avoid if you're trying to stay up in front. The end result was a creditable mid-pack finish - not bad given Fergus' disinterest in moving out on the first half of the second loop, and it showed me the basics of how riding closer to the front works.

Since I wasn't riding with anyone at NASTR 75, I decided to try again. The final outcome wasn't at all what I was aiming for, but I learned a ton in the process - most particularly about what Fergus can and can't tolerate. And I have to say, I was pretty impressed. It's not something I want to repeat again any time soon, but - wow.

Loop 1 - The Fun Canyons

Right from the get go, I failed. I fully-intended to start with the pack, just like real riders do, but of course didn't manage to get his pad on straight under the saddle, so had to make a return trip to the trailer to get it centered, and by the time I got back to the start, the pack was gone. No worries. I let Fergus go into his big walk and he passed about half the field making their way along the road. After a suitable warm-up period, I let him trot, and trot he did. He didn't really feel like he was pushing the effort-level, but we were passing riders with enthusiasm ...until suddenly there were no more riders left to pass - and we shot out into the lead. Oops. Not what I had in mind at all. Now I had to figure out a way to get out of this situation.


Thankfully, a water trough appeared almost immediately and Fergus decided that drinking would be nice (a mile into the ride? thank goodness for small mercies).

Of course, this distraction only lasted about 15 seconds, but was enough to get the four front-runners back past us again, so we could get back to normality.

Or so I thought.


What I hadn't reckoned on was Fergus deciding that these horses were all his new BFFs and that he needed to stay with them at all costs - and so I had a battle on my hands. He wanted to trot through the crappy rocky footing. Then he wanted to trot speedily down the hill - a double-track with a drop off on one side - quite interesting when I made him walk and he, in turn, began to thrash his head around and jump about threatening to buck. Words were had.

Down on the flatter part, we did our best to try and keep it together - him insisting that warp-speed trot was obviously the best gait to do, with me insisting that the use of brain might be advisable. I got cramp in my hands trying to keep it together. I'd hoped to sponge him in the multiple creeks (have NEVER seen so much water on that trail in the five times I've done this ride), but fat chance of that happening.

We managed to let the four front-runners get far enough ahead that he couldn't see them any more (although obviously from his demeanor, he knew they were there), and he was just starting to settle down when the next pack of three came past - the leader of this group I knew ... and also knew I didn't need to be going the speed that he usually goes.


Another couple passed us, causing yet more leaping about and head-thrashing and then around the next corner we caught the lady (never did get her name) who was trotting along at a nice sensible speed and I slotted Fergus behind her to try to regain brain-power.


I told Fergus that Karen Sullivan (she who was Fergus' initial trainer and insisted that this sort of behaviour was absolutely forbidden) would be ashamed of him and that I'd be in big trouble if she found out that he was doing this.

With our new-found external brain (aka, the back end of the bay mare), I was even able to chuck my sponge fleetingly at the creeks a couple of times, and didn't need to be holding on with both hands, both legs, and most of my torso to keep the speed to a dull roar.

We went through El Dorado Canyon, managed Illinois Canyon without doing anything stupid, and came up on the flats. By this time we'd been climbing gradually for about 12 miles and Fergus was beginning to puff slightly and I could feel him working to stay with the lady on the bay mare. The bay mare was trotting along without showing much sign of stress, while F was straining to stay with her. It was time to walk. Of course, that's easier said than done - if I made him walk, he'd then try twice as hard to catch her each time.

My method of keeping things together for hard rides is to walk any hills and trot anything else. We came to a hill and she trotted cheerfully up it and I knew it was time to put my foot down. We walked the hill.

...and then we trotted at warp speed down the other side <grrr>, catching both the lady and the man (JP) just before the water trough. <sigh>.

F took a quick sip and then decided it was time to go. I insisted he stayed there and behaved himself. He insisted we leave. I insisted not. etc.

After the trough, the trail widened into a hard-packed road. Last year, pft and I amused ourselves on this stretch with me teaching pft how to cue for the canter. After which, Fergus decided that cantering everywhere would be a great game.

This time I asked him to trot and he cheerfully shot off down the road.


After a minute or so, JP asked if was OK if he cantered past, and so he disappeared ahead of us.


I'm guessing the Bay Mare Lady hopped off behind a bush, because she disappeared just after that, and when F realised she was missing he stopped dead and I had some difficulty persuading him to go on without his new BFF, the bay mare.

Luckily, he rethought the situation and concluded that the bay mare must, in fact, be ahead of us, so off we went again at not-quite-warp-speed trot. The closer he got to JP, the faster he went and the more I had to work to keep things together.

At this point on the trail, there's a little creek about 100 yds down a side-trail, so JP and I both detoured down there. It was a successful side trip for me, with my sponge on a string, while JP sadly told me he hadn't realised why a sponge on a string would be a good idea (and thinking now, I was too frazzled to offer him the use of my sponge <sigh>). Bay Mare Lady must have passed us while we were in the creek, so we were back to 9th/10th place.


On the lead up to the hill (the only hill to speak off on the whole ride), we were still trotting BIG and I remember thinking "wonder if they changed the trail some, I don't remember this part being this trottable?". Guess that's the difference when you're riding Mr Overachiever.

Half way up the hill, the left front glue-on flew off and thank goodness JP saw it as it flew and yelled to me.

(This was the boot that I'd predicted would come off, because I took too long smearing the glue in it on application, and by the time I got it on his foot, there was a big hard wodge in the front. It was the first boot we glued and I swore profusely at it). 

Within 100 ft a massive mounting block-sized rock loomed by the side of the trail (wow - talk about serendipity), and so I hopped off and popped on a Glove. There were lovely tuffs of green grass right there. Fergus ignored them. Gotta go.

I also hopped off for the longish and horrendously rocky downhill and things began to feel normal - we were proceeding at our usual pace - trotting and walking where necessary. Until, of course, I got back on again and F set off at warp speed to catch JP who'd stayed mounted and was trotting on ahead.

But still, we got down on the road and again, things seemed quite sane. We walked into the vet check, I was shaking from exertion, while Fergus seemed quite relaxed and doing fine.


He pulsed down per normal after throwing some water on him and vetted through with just his standard quiet gut sounds (no surprises there, given his insistence that we 'got on with it and not waste time eating grass'). Cooling him off to get his PnR, I managed to put my sponge in a sponging bucket and then got distracted enough to leave it there - such that when I looked down as we started the next loop, I discovered it missing. <sad face>

For the hold, I mostly just watched Fergus. Ate a couple of things but was fried enough and warm enough that I wasn't too interested in food. I think I ate a boiled egg and possibly a string cheese and drank some water. Not good. I did have the presence of mind to pull out my neck sausage that I'd soaked for hours at home the previous day and then stuffed in a ziploc, but felt cool enough that I didn't think it was worth putting on the evaporative cooling vest that I'd also soaked. I was wrong.

Back in camp, I'd been parked next to Kelly Williams and her boyfriend who very kindly agreed to schlep my massive crew box up to the vet check. This was a godsend. 

I *have* to find an alternative crew vessel - ideally one with wheels. I love my big box, but by the time I've loaded it up with spare boots; water bottles; enough food for a big horse to eat well on a 75 miler; my lunch and its two ice bottles; a bottle of pre-mixed elytes; my spare pad inserts; my baggie of "things I might need" (desitin, string, snaps, drugs, elytes, etc); a tarp; a brush; a cooler... I can't actually lift the stupid thing. I also had a chair strapped to the top and there's no way I could have gotten this thing across camp and into the crew-bag trailer, let alone have been able to deal with it at the vet check in my wobbly state. 

Curtis not only dragged my box up there, he set up my chair and grabbed some hay and carrots for the horses. And laughably - after having told him the previous night that the usual way of things was that Kelly ran around 5th from the front, while I was invariably 5th from last - this day, I actually came in ahead of her.  

Thanks again to Curtis for all his help.

Loop 2 - The Kalahari Desert

For once, in my new "make an effort" persona, I was ready to go on time. JP and I left and walked calmly for the first half mile or so, giving the pones a chance to digest the food they'd munched during the 40 minute hold.

It was starting to warm up, and when we got to the first trough, maybe a mile out, I knew I was going to be in trouble with my drinking water supply - I sucked down half a bottle right then. Uh oh. I only had two 24 oz bottles with me.

We hopped off and walked down the big long deep sand wash, making good time while at the same time, I was yanking up huge handfuls of grass and feeding them to Fergus as we walked. He was grabbing them also and I think it did him good and kept him in a good place, metabolically, for this next 25 mile loop.

Half way down the wash, two riders passed us. Time to get back to reality and ride a sensible ride - so I wasn't at all concerned, but I think it stung JP.


At the bottom, we hopped back on, and walked the deeper sand parts. This section of trail on the hillside, winding its way through the sagebrush is a lot of fun, but I always worry about how deep that sand is. Shortly thereafter, Haily Daeumler passed us. Fergus thought he ought to stay with her, but I didn't think trotting uphill in deep sand was really his forte, and after a brief attempt, he agreed with me.


We watched ahead as she hooked up with the other two riders and they speeded off down the trail. Last year, I was riding Roo on this trail and not actually able to keep up with Fergus on the twists - which amazed me, since he's not exactly the most supple of horses on such a tight trail. So I really enjoyed him this year, letting him get on with it and doing my best to stay with him as he twisted around the clumps of sagebrush. JP wasn't so lucky and his horse decided to tuck his head and stumble along and I could hear him yelling behind me.

My favorite view on the whole trail... and the only photo I actually took on the trail this year.

At the next water trough, both horses were too busy being fixated on the horses ahead, so didn't drink. <grrr>. I was smart enough to dunk my neck sausage in the trough, thus proving my superior brain-power. Uh-huh. And I finished the first of my two water bottles.

More endless trotting on good-to-hard footing sand/dirt roads and I was beginning to heat up more and more. I constantly rotated my neck sausage on my neck to the cool side. Fergus trotted along - he was hot too, I could feel, and was starting to wilt slightly. And we gradually spiralled into how this loop goes - trot as much as you can, but your heart isn't in it as it's SO hot and the roads seem to get progressively harder packed. At the next trough, JP kindly got off and scooped some water for us - I poured one over my head and immediately (although short-lived) felt a little better, and scooped the other one carefully onto Fergus to try and cool him. JP even sampled the warm beer and pronounced it gross. I began to get classic heat-related symptoms - stomach cramps. Great.

Up a hill, more hard-pack, another trough, another scoop (thank goodness for JP and his scoop), through a wash - walking in the deep sand, more hard-pack, more heat, more trotting - very lethargic. JP made use of a bush while F and I continued slowly ahead - except F didn't want to leave his latest BFF, so we had a discussion about what was appropriate forward motion - walking down the trail in a straight line with impulsion, or weaving drunkenly and stopping and turning around at regular intervals? Fergus loves having a buddy around.

We were trudging up the last deep sand wash when we heard two riders come up behind us. I knew these two and knew that they were very, very good at pacing and that we were going to have to work if we wanted to stay ahead of us. They passed us almost immediately (remember the deep sand in the wash?).


But hah - almost immediately we were done with the wash and out onto more solid footing. A turn was nearly missed and we managed to slip past them again.


And joy - here was the final water trough of the loop - right where I was hoping for it. One more scoop to dowse my head, and another to cool Fergus off - both godsends given how crappy I was feeling. JP kindly gave the last of his water to one of the other riders who had run out, and I swigged down my last half-inch of water from my bottle, and off we went along the hard-packed road. This road is about three miles long and I don't think I've ever ridden it that fast before - Fergus was on a mission.

Right as we got to the vet check, we caught up with Haily who was off and walking and we later discovered she'd walked the entire length of that road. She was very hot.

And as we got to the in-timer, I heard him say to her "You're the 9th rider in from this loop".


The only thing I can think - going back over it now - was that the two riders in the second group from the front had decided to slow way down and we'd passed them in the first vet check because they'd stayed longer?



Once again, Fergus pulsed down reasonably, and I found my blue sponge - right where I'd left it in the sponging bucket 25 miles and 3.5 hours (!) earlier. Took him back over to our crewing area and dumped his tack under the tree in the shade and let him eat for ten minutes or so before going back to vet. This seemed to pay off, as, although his gut sounds weren't quite "up" yet, they were improving and his hydration and other parameters were good. His CRI was 56.

The temps were in the 80s. We haven't ridden in over mid-70s all year.

As it turned out, I spotted one of the front-runner riders having his horse attended to by the vet - too much speed in the heat, possibly. But it meant that he was out, automatically bumping us up a placing.


Back to the crew area and I just sat and felt like crap. Fergus was scarfing down his pan of mash and a flake of grass hay and I looked at my baggies of food and couldn't face any of them. A visit to the bathroom helped a little (at least reducing the stomach cramps), and I group-txted my virtual crew in various parts of CA and AZ.

"Feel like crap and am shaking"

"When did you last elyte yourself?"

"<shifty look>"

I pulled out my elyte tabs from the saddle and looked at them dubiously. There were five of them and none looked terribly sanitary. I swallowed one and drank some Snapple.

Virtual crew informed me I was to eat one elyte tab an hour for the next four hours - by which time it should have cooled off.

Forced down some meat slices, a couple of string cheeses, three goldfish crackers, and a cheese slice. Not great, but better than nothing.

I put on my evaporative vest and just sat and watched Fergus eat. Such a good boy.

Loop 3 - The Grassy Loop

(well, usually it's the grassy loop - you go out, you let the horse munch on all the greenery available, and you treat this loop as an interlude. Only not this time...)

I'm proud of myself, I really am. I got F's tack back on in record time (with the pad on crooked as it turned out - <grrr> - no way to tell until you're on the horse)(and then had to ride squiff for the next hour) and arrived at the out-timer only a minute late.

JP showed up and by the time he was on his horse, the two riders behind us were also leaving. They went out just ahead of us...


... and then stopped to adjust something, so we passed them again...


We started trotting along and I told JP where I thought we were currently sitting, position-wise. I probably should have kept my mouth shut.

The other two riders passed us again.


And then Carolyn and her riding partner on the 50 were there and Fergus picked up a second wind. Apparently he recognised C's horse, Scoop, and cheered up and went into his "wheee" big trot and flew to the front of the group.


And then Carolyn pulled off on the "going back to camp" trail while we carried on straight. Fergus tried to stop dead. I peddled. And off we went again.

JP missed the turning onto the yellow loop, but I got us on the right trail and we trotted up the hill, until F came to his senses and dropped to a walk. JP passed us, saying he didn't want to get passed again. <sigh>.

And this is where I made my mistake. It's SO easy to look back and say "if only I'd done..." But THIS is when I should have thrown in the towel and said "WTH are you thinking??", but instead, I let F chase JP's horse up the hill in the hot, hot sun.

Looking back, of course, knowing what I know now I would have ridden differently. But at the time - given the information I had at my disposal - I'm not sure I would have changed much - except for looking after myself better. 

Soon enough, we again came across a walking-Haily - I'm thinking her mare was looking for a buddy, as she perked up as soon as we showed up. And we proceeded along this next loop much faster than I would have ridden had I been on my own. In my defense, F actually cheerily led a good portion of it, so it's not like he was doing a dying swan impersonation, but all the same, I could feel that he was just being pulled/pushed along by the other horses and didn't need to be doing this.


At about mile 7-8 of this 10 mile loop, there's a very long uphill and after F dropped a couple of times to walk, then broke into a slightly antsy trot to catch up, then wanted to walk again, but each time went back to the ansty trot lured by his buddies, I once again put my foot down and told him "we're done, you're walking" and told the other two to go ahead.

F was *pissed*. He bellowed and proceeded to do his best TWH flat-walk up that hill. I'm not sure how restful it was, or how productive making him not-trot was, as he didn't exactly hang around, but at least we weren't in "must keep up" trot. At the top of the hill I let him trot again and he was going along happily - a bit too fast, but not ungodly, and he caught a back foot in the soft footing and tripped. This trip sent all his weight to his front end, and he promptly tripped on his front end as well, and I thought "we're going down!". As it was, he scrambled and was able to keep us upright, but I made him walk for a while and then tried all the harder to slow him down. To no avail. We caught back up with the buddies ahead just before the water trough - and then he once again pushed himself to the front and wanted to fly down the trail. During that section, he did a couple more minor trips, and several times I felt like he took some funky steps - but had him walk for a short while, and then he seemed fine again.


Down on the road going back to camp, he was Mr Pushy again - wanted to be in front, wanted to trot BIG, but he felt fine (and sound) - or at least pretty damn good for 60 miles...

Walked him into the vet check, he pulsed down the same as he had been all day - hovering right at 60. This was just a 20 minute hold and I'd already made up my mind that we were going to let everyone go ahead of us and stay for much longer than that - for my sake and his. I envisioned a really nice, perky-but-relaxed ride back to camp on my favorite part of the whole trail - going a sensible pace, not being lured along by other horses ahead of us.

And then the vet saw something on the LF at the trot.

His CRI was up at 64, and she opted to hang on to our card to recheck him at the end of the hold and I was pretty much sure we were done. I took him back to the crew area where he wasn't very interested in food. Curtis kindly hand-fed him grass hay, which he picked at, but wasn't exactly eating in the way I'd expect him to after 60 tough miles. I ate nothing, predictably, except for gulping down an Ensure and yet another bottle of water (at this point I'd reached the "can't get enough water in to keep up with the desperately thirsty feeling" stage, so knew I was badly dehydrated). After 45 minutes, F took a nap, peed (good colour), and started to look like his normal self again. I took him back to the vet.

And he was way worse - I could see it when I was trotting him. So that was that. The vet asked if I'd like them to trot him so I could see it, but I said, no, it was super-obvious, thank you.

On the upswing - starting to gobble down food

It was almost half-relief - that I could stop now and recover, but at the same time I was bummed that we weren't going to get our nice relaxed final 15 miles in on that favorite trail - best part of the whole ride. You try so hard all day, and even though you're exhausted at the end, you get to come in on an amazing horse and get that "high" at completing - which cancels out any exhaustion. But we weren't going to get that. 

It took over three hours for the rescue trailer to come and pick us up from the vet check - it's a two-hour round trip for them and I was the last horse to be pulled off the mountain. Very kindly, the vet, Marcia Smith stayed with me until the trailer arrived, lest anything bad happen to Fergus or he take a turn for the worse, and I greatly appreciated her thoughtfulness. We have some of the best vets in this sport.

I watched Fergus like a hawk, but he was already recovering nicely - and munched his way through a big pile of mash and a flake of hay. And by the time we were picked up, he'd visited almost every single left-over pile of mash from the other riders and whiffled those up too. He definitely wasn't suffering metabolically. I'm guessing the 64 CRI was pain related from the lameness mostly.

And while I sat there watching Fergus for three hours, I got to think about how this day had turned out.

I pondered the correlation that they'd seen "something" at 20 Mule Team 100 back in February when I let him go fast on the first loop. And I thought about how they'd seen "something" at the end of NV Derby last month. Nothing super-obvious, just a subtle "something". And now that "something" was a real lameness. Had I broken him, long-term, or...?

And I was bummed that we'd messed up our Triple Crown.

But I'm a big girl, and I know I tried something different and it didn't pan out. Life's like that - you reap what you sow. It sucks, but if you don't try, you never learn and go forwards. If you don't try, you learn very little. And I learned a ton this day.

Lots and lots of new information to think about and mull over. 
  • What worked (he felt amazing nearly all day)
  • What didn't work (as my friend said, you get to the position you want to be in, and you stay there... I got the concept, but need to put it into play a little better. Being at the front of the pack was definitely not where I wanted to be and I paid for it in spades, fighting with him at the start)
  • How much speed can he tolerate (more than I thought, given how perky he was coming in off that last loop - ten miles in just over an hour. But equally I need to get much, much better at pacing him. He's a good boy - and I was too lax in letting him push to the front and speed along when I know better. I need to step up and lay down the rules more emphatically with him. And equally learn how to manage this big horse. His needs are very different from the usual endurance arabs, and I need to pay attention to that and make sure I give him what he needs)
  • How to balance enjoying the company of a buddy with having that same buddy speed you along unnecessarily? (probably the answer is to ride with other riders who are smart and know how to get a horse through rides for mile after mile);
  • And how crap was I at looking after myself? (I don't care how hot it is, it's my job to manage my intake, and I failed miserably there. Metabolically, for me, this was one of my least good rides. I knew I was going to be in trouble when I read the forecast was going to be 90*, but still).
(* apparently the temp was 94°F at the finish line).

Next installment - what the vet said and what I think is going on...